In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the U.S. government built 14 concrete observation towers along the New Hampshire seacoast to defend the Portsmouth Harbor and the busy military industry facility at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Pulpit Rock Tower stands alone as the only one of these wartime watchtowers that to exist in near-original condition today.
The eight-story tower rises 73 feet tall above the shore, with an observation platform on the top level. Soldiers stationed at the base end station would wait in watch for enemy ships. They would triangulate the ship’s coordinates with the other watchtowers and report the position to the gun batteries at Fort Dearborn to properly aim the heavy guns.
The tower has 12-inch-thick reinforced concrete walls and a concrete spiral staircase inside. While in use, it had electric lighting and a dedicated telephone line to Fort Dearborn (now Odiorne Point State Park). Today, it is one of those inconspicuous landmarks that locals drive past everyday and wonder what it may have been used for. It was also recently named one of the “Seven to Save” endangered historic properties in the state of New Hampshire.
A small parking area and path to the tower is available at the end of Neptune Drive as is a informative plaque and a kiosk with additional information.
Know Before You Go
Pulpit Rock Tower is open to the public a few times a year for special occasions like Memorial Day. It is also possible to rent the tower for private events and dinner parties.